At first, it was really cute that Charlie follows Matt around like the Pied Piper.
Charlie will lovingly gaze up at Matt, and trot behind his every step. In the morning, Charlie will lay in his dog bed until Matt rises. During the day, Charlie will nap on the floor by Matt’s feet. Then follow Matt out into the yard. In some ways this seems a natural extension of his border collie behavior. Herding daddy.
This lovefest started taking a neurotic turn a few weeks ago. Matt and I walked out front to retrieve something from the truck, leaving the front door open. Charlie immediately jumped up on the couch to look out the front window at us, then started barking. As we walked back up to the house, he jumped on the screen door, howling like mad. It was hard to open the door because he was pushing against it so hard and I didn’t want him to shoot into the front yard. Once I got inside, it took minutes to calm him.
Then there’s the matter of the front window. While Matt was away on business, and I had to leave Charlie home alone for the first time, I came back to find he had chewed the window sill. He did some more damage a few days ago, so we bought bitter cherry to spray on the sill. Last night while we were at dinner, he moved up to a munton/window pane divider that we did not spray and did some serious damage.
Also this week, he chewed off the corner of a rug by our front door. Matt caught him in the act, and delivered a stern “NO!” but that didn’t prevent last night’s window feast.
Matt feels Charlie has deep issues that need to be addressed; I think he needs obedience class. The discussions have been tense.
It’s funny how puppy love can lead to relationship stress.
I think we are both right. Charlie is stressed out. Possible separation anxiety. I think behavior modification will work. And yes, Charlie needs more structure in his life.
In some ways this has not seemed like a big deal to me because the behavior felt familiar. I have had many puppies, and they all go through that terrible chewing phase. I’ve lost countless shoes, books, couches and cellphones to that cause. My laid back approach to this destruction is driving Matt mad.
But I do see the troubling signs that Matt has identified. It’s not that he’s chewing, it’s that he’s chewing in response to our absence.
It’s not healthy that Charlie can’t let Matt leave the room without freaking out. What began as a charming routine of Charlie following his daddy, has become an unhealthy fixation. And his destruction when we leave him alone is not acceptable.
Unfortunately, crating is not an option.
We’ve decided to seek help from a behaviorist. Despite our good intentions, our bright ideas have not gotten us too far.
We’re hoping an outside voice will guide us in the right direction.
NEXT: An unexpected solution.
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